January 19, 2020

The bonds are being developed with caregivers (Keesing

The
psychoanalytic perspective has a great influence across a variety of fields. One
area in specific is the field of psychoanalytic anthropology. The influence of
Freud on psychoanalytic anthropology can be seen not only in the methodology
used within the field such as the Thematic Apperception Test (Murray, 1991) and
the Rorschach tests but also in the use of case studies and individual
ethnographies in explanations of their findings.  Enthusiasts of the psychoanalytic school of
anthropology often used psychoanalysis to be able to explain such cultural and
social phenomena such as the development of personality, symbols, and family
dynamics and how child rearing can have an impact on adulthood.

 

The relationship between anthropology and psychoanalysis
is one which is particular in nature; this is mainly due to the fact that the
concepts used in psychoanalysis can be considered to be unfamiliar and abstract
in relation to that of anthropology. In light of this unique relationship
between the two fields anthropologists have used cross-cultural investigations
to seek to investigate the commonality of psychoanalytic theories (Ducey, 1981).

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There is a great deal of emphasis on the symbols
within culture and this area has been particularly heavily influenced by not
only Sigmund Freud but also by Carl Jung. Freud believed that the use of
symbols, such as art, religion, icons etc. were purely symptoms of motivations
that lie deep within out unconscious mind, the ID. Therefore symbols are in essence
consequences of our unconscious mind (Eller, 2016).
Another key concept of psychodynamic theory that has been integrated into the
field of anthropology is that of the existence of universal concepts such as
the Oedipus and Elektra complex, this forms during infancy when strong
psychological bonds are being developed with caregivers (Keesing &
Strathern, 1998).

 

Given the importance of
symbols in culture and the way in which symbols represent ideologies and
express social structures, the use of them in rituals cannot be over looked.
The manner in which a symbol is used and the context of its use is also vital,
as a symbol in itself is only of relevance within the culture it exists
(Womack, 2005). The meaning of such symbol must be both learned and accepted
for it to become a shared belief (Keesing & Strathern, 1998). This cultural
relevance can be seen Ndembu tribe located in Zambia. Within the Ndembu tribe
we can also see how the environment also contributes to the symbols that are
used within the rituals. The mudyi tree is used in a multitude of rituals due
to it releasing a white milky sap when cut. The release of the sap can be a
representation of the physical, such a mother’s breast milk or social, the bond
of mother with child and also sometimes used as an abstract representation
(Keesing & Strathern, 1998). 

 

The Tallensi of Ghana hold
extremely elaborate rituals to symbolize rites of passage. They believe that
the most important goal within ones lifespan is to leave a lineage specifically
through a male heir. The Tallensi also emphasize a strict hierarchical society
which is shown in both male and female offspring. The males may not wear the
father’s cap or tunic nor carry his bow and quiver, also the male offspring is
not permitted to look into his father’s granary, Furthermore once the male
offspring reaches adolescence he may not meet his father at the entrance of the
homestead. Similarly female offspring are forbidden from the mother’s storage
pot. Once the parent dies the male offspring is adorned the clothing previously
forbidden and escorted for the first time into the granary by an elder as a
rite symbolizing the son taking the place of the father therefore reaching full
maturity with the father taking the place as mediator to the ancestors (Keesing
& Strathern, 1998)

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This Tallensi ritual can be
seen as way of maintaining the hierarchical society but also the acknowledgment
of the ancestral linage helps to alleviate the feelings associated with the
finality of death and also easing the loss of loved ones (Keesing &
Strathern, 1998). One might also question if the customs of the Tellensi father
and son may be a response to the Oedipus complex. As understood the son sees
the father as a rival for his mother’s love, as a response the father may
maintain this image of authority by withholding certain aspects (cap, tunic,
bow, quiver, entrance to the granary) thus asserting his power and control.
Further from this as the child now reaches adolescence he may be seen as more
formidable rival and therefore further displays of authority are enforced such
as not being able to meet at the entrance of the homestead. 

           

These rituals, beliefs,
morals, knowledge etc. are ingrained in the individual through enculturation
(Eller, 2016). This in turn shapes personality and the sense of self, with this
the sense of ones gender and sexuality are also learned. Physical sex and
gender are not to be classed as the same. In most societies it considered that
only two genders exist and this gender is “given” at birth along with
confirmation of the physical sex, however as individuals mature that individual
may not identify with the specific gender norms allocated by society (Richards
et al., 2016). If gender was simply defined by physical characteristics then it
stands to reason that we would not see the diversity in gender identity
exhibited cross-culturally such as the gender fluidity of Navayo or such as the
Zuni who require specific social rituals for the child to be allocated a sex at
all (Roscoe 1994). Roscoe (1994) acknowledges that gender is multidimensional.
This same understanding that holds for gender must also be adopted for
sexuality, what one society may view as deviant sexual behavior; another might
view as a rite of passage such as Melanesian society and the practice of ritual
homosexuality (Eller 2016). Therefore it is a requirement that when looking at
gender and sexuality in different cultures we must use an ontological
perspective with no cultural bias.

 

Eller (2016) states that the
definition of cultural ontology is “a society’s system of notions about what
kind of things (including kinds of people) exist in the world and their
characteristics and social value. A socially specific way of categorizing and valuing
the physical and social world.”  Based on
this definition we can conclude that cultural ontology includes a wide range of
factors along with symbols, the basic meaning (conscious or unconscious) of
those symbols and the value given to that symbol by  the culture in which it exists. Therefore
Eller’s (2016) definition can support a multitude of theories including that
according to Freud sexual desire is the basic meaning of all symbols and
symbolic behavior.

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